From the Boston Globe 2/26/2004
Left in the dark
Audis, Nissans being stripped of high-tech headlights
By Peter DeMarco, Globe Correspondent, 2/26/2004
Don Lufkus of Roslindale was typing at his computer one quiet Friday
night last month when a loud and ominous "CRACK" rang out from his driveway.
Looking out his bedroom window, he saw two young men standing in front
of his prized Audi S4, each holding a round object in his hands.
"I see the two kids, then I look at the car, and I don't have any
headlights," Lufkus recalled. "I'm like, `What the hell?' "
Car stereos are ancient history, and airbags are old hat. As Lufkus
discovered, xenon headlights, those super bright headlights with a bluish
tinge common to many high-end cars, are the coveted automobile item
nowadays. Car thieves have been swiping them in increasing numbers across
Boston, selling them on the black market for a fraction of their $540 list
price, and leaving unsuspecting car owners with repair bills in the
With the right tools, thieves can steal headlights off two models in
particular, Audi S4s and Nissan Maximas, in under a minute, auto industry
specialists said. The headaches for car owners last a lot longer.
Victims typically pay $500 or $1,000 deductibles, lose the use of
their car for weeks to the repair shop, and worry that after all the expense
they will be vandalized again.
"It's a huge problem," said Richard Poillucci, owner of Automotive
Specialties Inc. of Hyde Park, who has replaced headlights for Audi owners
from the South End, the Fenway, Back Bay, Brookline, and Roslindale in
recent months. "Originally we thought it was just a fluke. But I'm seeing on
an average week four or five that have been hit."
Headlight thefts were first reported a few years ago in Florida, where
thieves were pilfering Porsches of their xenon, or high-intensity, discharge
lights, which are three times more powerful than halogen lights,
and far more expensive. Halogen light bulbs cost about $14, according
to auto repair shops. The thieves installed the xenon lights in other cars,
such as older Hondas. The trend was seen last summer in New Jersey and on
Long Island in New York, and last fall in Boston.
Boston police said they are aware of the problem: In the South End
last month, police arrested several suspects who allegedly possessed stolen
xenon headlights. But officials could not provide figures on the number of
xenon headlight thefts in the city this year.
Glenn Greenberg, spokesman for Liberty Mutual Group's Boston office,
said his office has seen an increase in the number of reported thefts. "I
don't have a hard number for claims, but it certainly is a noticeable
amount," he said. "We're seeing it in Boston and the Greater Boston area.
There have been some incidents in the Framingham area."
MBTA parking lots in Hyde Park and Readville have also been hit,
though authorities have arrested a suspect they believe was responsible for
all seven thefts there.
While experienced thieves make off with headlights fairly quickly --
Lufkus could not catch the youths who stole his headlights -- novices have
ravaged car hoods, fenders, and windshields, requiring weeks of repairs and
"I just finished fixing a 2004 Audi. They actually cut the [headlight]
wiring harness that was incorporated with the airbag system. This was a
$10,000 headlight theft," said Alexander D. Haddad, a manager at Automotive
Specialties. In some cases, owners have been robbed not once, but two or
"I was away at a conference when it happened the first time in
September," said Heikki Nikkanen, 33, of Jamaica Plain, whose Audi was
vandalized in his driveway. "I went through the hassle with the insurance
company, I didn't have my car for three weeks, and with the deductible I was
out $1,000. Then it happened again in December. The same exact thing. I
think it's the same guy, frankly. He knows where I live."
Nissan, responding to thefts of 2002 and 2003 Maxima headlights,
recently launched an identification program with the British firm,
DataDotTechnology, in which car owners in the Northeast, including
Massachusetts and Connecticut, can go to their local dealers and have small
chips affixed to their headlights. Individual vehicle identification numbers
are printed on the chips, allowing law enforcement officials to recognize
stolen headlights in automotive chop shops.
Nissan has also redesigned its 2004 Maxima models to make it much more
difficult for a thief to extract the headlights, a DataDotTechnology
Doug Clark, spokesman for Audi of America, said the company is
reviewing xenon headlight thefts and is weighing several options on how to
address the issue. The Audi S4 is the most targeted of its models because
xenon headlights are standard equipment. They are optional on the A4, and
sometimes thieves mistakenly remove non-xenon headlights from unlucky A4
With no devices available to better secure xenon headlights to Audis,
though, owners have been left scrambling to find other ways to protect their
Nikkanen bought a car cover, installed a $600 radar-based alarm that
goes off if someone comes too close to his car, and had his landlord install
Neal Rantoul, a Northeastern professor, said he now parks his car in
public garages with the front-end out, so that his headlights are in public
view and a degree safer.
Andrew Malgieri, 35, a South End computer engineer whose headlights
were swiped last month, said he's been searching in vain for a more secure
spot for his Audi S4, which was vandalized in the parking lot behind his
"There just isn't any garage parking available in the South End," he
lamented. "For me, I do a lot of traveling to Vermont and New Hampshire.
Having all-wheel drive is pretty important for my safety. I love my car.
It's a great car. But now, I've thought about selling it."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
begin 666 from_provider_globe.gif
M, D)"2 @(%145-G9V82$A(Z.CN7EY:ZNKK>WMUM;6S<W-P$!`>KJZK2TM!,3
I(*K @V1L% J ,1#&S 19=$6Q;&^*FT(1PD#@`J!2!S4$>
@+S!+!@[H.+@8$ZM"BH)(VH2VYZ(! C9Y9 ,8J\O!#XP B.
M/5,F!, A``"""V$Z`?_8,B.+( <5")JX<"9 @B=M8L$1Z"2 `8%;F.&:SDN*
0-'T\0- 44'1Q0@`L!")0#$(DD@(>W;00`2'D!+#-"@,IP ,&+OB0
M1 I7;%("`(P0D< /`=1Q1R^J1.)-&A)X$ `)J7P"RP="R/+)!@'\8HH((FPA
MD ;-4"!.`,O88$@`Y\Q7'PT-`(%(+0$H$H$?&)RB#E<'E!,%$CG8,% D-P`P
MB7L`5"#<" %P`D T/@!@00`C@!" *P#X$8"!`( 2P 8A8(!("HWP$ `@.U#_
M$4 @K 30`0!E!+ 'I5=XN@@#8&0``Q*
MD,I )C!@`QB,R(&##$]$$0`5$# (P#-]P! `$0HD`P$`. 1P8@9I<A# "4,$
ML 0`FP0`BD"O!/#&`6,D0<):B03P") J1!" &0"H$4 32P1P" .W] + #4;T
`( 'TA(0@!T1&'1"$264@<8H#5 3`"HV!- *`"+4
M$D$40B1PB1".)'JB,UH`$,2]^:*@:0!!"(1)`$4`0 <4/<2L2P!,L!" "IY"
M?,'$%5_!@"RP`)#)#<(4Y$8`K\S 1 $T"#3+;BM+_YOH#@8Q\,@7;FP`@ QW
Q1! ,2!&#"%P$X`D &2 `@0 "$:!" U+L$T!T`)@@!2"/&
ML#+0*4:4$D `FBQ2P 6&P"!Q"EIGT$ ')^R0Z#$)9.YV%4/8B\T.G +0@Z(#
MS1" %:A9H%0-8@! 1@!LX$,`/ " ]*UA$ (#0 X^$ (18*$-`+@&0>P`AA;A
M@A ;>$ 8LG2'#P0@!11(`QYF\(":`" +0)@"&EQ@AAP$@ !PT,PN@H&!#R3
8QAA\8(ATM" ;`<A !:?F((4;> `%?'@:*4) .TOP02E#`$8`/'$!(C !
M"(40R/^@\015!* /L< $`@P@!PS,@0)M"$$"I("$!*2'('KX!19\`0AP<.(%
. S4!6\0VI,: 0#5 "%]ZH*2[ Y@&A
M.(- 0#"(7!P``2C(Q7 &0H,D8*
$:13C$9FS `Q"$P X>X(M E!"&'A#D`5!
begin 666 spacer.gif
K1TE&.#EA`0`!`( ``/___P```"'Y! $`````+ `````!``$```("1 $`.P``
begin 666 2004%2016%3A03%3A12&tzm00&tz=EST&res00x1200&cdep.dat
K1TE&.#EA`0`!`(#_`,# P ```"'Y! $`````+ `````!``$```("1 $`.P``
begin 666 1x1user.gif?ver=nonjava
K1TE&.#EA`0`!`(#_`,# P ```"'Y! $`````+ `````!``$```("1 $`.P``
begin 666 &s00x1200&c&j=1.3&v=Y&k=Y&bw03&bh—1&ct=lan&hp=N&[AQE]
K1TE&.#EA`@`"`( ``/___P```"'Y! $`````+ `````"``(```("A%$`.P``